English football, overrun with money, scandalous stories of professional players setting bad examples to impressionable youth, the same teams dominating the media controlled Premier League. But wait - Leicester City are Champions. Spurs pushing for second place. The usual suspects, the so called 'Big Four', are scrapping it out with the likes of West Ham United for the remaining Champions League positions and the reigning champions, Chelsea, are lucky to be finishing in the top half of the table. Perhaps football is not becoming as predictable as we all thought. Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane respectively for different reasons are fine exemplars of what hard work, dedication and desire can provide as they look set to be held aloft as carrying the English fight for international success at this summer's European Championships in France. How the media will treat them when they inevitably return empty handed, we will have to wait and see.
Of course, the Blades have flattered to deceive once again, just not quite making the play-offs and Wednesday are clinging to the hope of returning to the top tier through the play-offs. The cycles of football are both predictable and unpredictable and it is this that attracts many to the sport as fans and participants alike. But, there are questions concerning how the increased amount of money in the game, the behaviour of overpaid superstars and the regularity of televised football is effecting the next generation of young supporters and youth players.
These were some of the subjects that emerged during a pilot research project, 'Football and Connected Communities', on which FURD have been collaborating with the University of East Anglia, Keele University and the University of Brighton during the past year or so. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of their Connected Communities programme, the project has been specifically exploring the ways in which young people consume football, relate to footballers as celebrities or role models and engage with football at a community level.
The FURD Football Circus is an event in recognition of the findings of the research and a celebration of contemporary football consumption. Headlining the event is Dan Magness, football freestyler, world record holder and occasional Soccer AM presenter. On the day he will be attempting to break one of his own world records and will be moving amongst the crowds showing off his vast array of freestyle football skills and stunts. He will also help judge the result of the main event - a freestyle football match in which points are scored for aesthetic performance on the pitch as well as hitting the back of the net. How the game is played will be equally as important as the number of goals scored, with points being awarded for tricks and flicks, for individual skills and team performance. A match made for showboating!
The event, being held at the U-Mix Centre on Saturday 14th May from 1-5pm, will include numerous other challenges in which people can get involved: keepy-up challenges, Head Tennis, Football Golf, FIFA X-Box Competitions and plenty more football related activities. The event has been organised in recognition of research findings that demonstrate many young people's enjoyment of watching, tagging and sharing YouTube clips of freestyle football and their desire to emulate such feats in their own play. It is also located at the heart of the community in inner city Sheffield where football has brought young and old together for many years as fans, followers and players but has also seen tension and division in the past. FURD along with partners such as the Sheffield United Community Foundation continue to investigate and utilise various ways in which football can be used as a tool for community development, education and social cohesion. The FURD Football Circus will provide a unique opportunity to celebrate this.
Come along and get involved!
Follow the links below to read more about the Football and Connected Communities research project.